Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Miracles: City of Angels [Tamla, 1975]
Tom Smucker, explaining why this was included in his annual top ten: "Motown moves to L.A. and likes what it finds. It's very important that in an era when people don't like cities some people can still find them romantic. And that L.A. is the city. And that Motown are the people." This is sweet and true, but it ignores the point, which is that this record is a riot. In fact, its achievement is so complete, so true to itself, that the lurking possibility of a put-on can't be dismissed. Space makes it impossible to reprint Inspirational Verse (Q: If the first line is "Homosexuality" and the rhyming word is "society," what's the third line? A: "Well I guess they need more variety"), but print doesn't do it justice anyway. You have to hear the intonations, the falsettos, the backups, the orchestration, some of which can be credited to producer Freddie Perren. All this plus: the first soul song about an underground newspaper. B